1940-1943 North Africa

The North African Theater of War

       The North African Theater of War in WWII was perhaps the most difficult place of all to fight a modern mechanized war.  The dry environment, with it's ultrafine dusty sand which penetrated everywhere, was utter hell on machines.  Engines and tracks had to be replaced constantly on tanks in order to keep them in service.  An offensive usually only lasted  for a short time until the supplies ran out or the machines all broke down.  Because of these problems, the war in Africa consisted of sweeping offensives which would capture large amounts of ground, following by extended lulls while the machines were being repaired and new supplies (brought from far away) were stockpiled.  Here are the major dates in the campaign.

Map from British 7th Armored Division website

North Africa.zip

North Africa notes

September 13, 1940  

       The Italian 10th Army, consisting of six infantry divisions and 200 tanks, attacks from Libya into Egypt against the British 4th Indian Division and the 7th Armored Brigade.  The Italians drive 60 miles against token resistance, then halt and set up fortified camps near Sid Barrani.

December 9, 1940 - February 7, 1941  (Operation Compass)

        A British five day raid develops into a major offensive which pushes the Italians back 500 miles, taking 130,000 prisoners and destroying the Italian 10th Army.  The British stop at El Agheila.

Operation Compass

February 12, 1941

       Rommel and the Germans begin to arrive in Libya.  The 5th Light Division is completely arrived by March 11.  The 15th Panzer is available in May.

April, 1941 (Operation Sonnenblume)

       Rommel attacks the British and drives them back 500 miles.  Tobruk is isolated but does not fall as the tough Australians refuse to yield.  Axis attempts to take Tobruk on April 14 and April 30 are both repulsed.

Start of Rommel's Offensive

Siege of Tobruk

May 15, 1941 (Operation Brevity)

       The British launch a small-scale counterattack in an attempt to relieve the isolated garrison at Tobruk.  Halfaya Pass is captured and Ft. Capuzza and Sollum are held for part of a day but the offensive fails to reach Tobruk.

Operation Brevity

May 26, 1941 (Operation Skorpion)

        Rommel launches an offensive that retakes Halfaya Pass.

Operation Skorpion

June 15, 1941 (Operation Battleaxe)

       The British launch a large counterattack in another attempt to relieve Tobruk.  The attack is stopped cold.

Operation Battleaxe

November, 1941  (Operation Crusader)

       In a major offensive, the newly created British 8th Army pushes Rommel all the way back to his starting point at Mersa el Braga.  Tobruk is relieved after a seige of 242 days.  The Italians lose half their army and the Germans lose a quarter of theirs.

Operation Crusader

January 21, 1942

       The Germans refit and Rommel counterattacks, driving the British back.

 May 26 to June 21, 1942  (Battle of Gazala)

        Rommel attacks the Allied line just west of Tobruk.  The Allies are heavily defeated and forced to retreat.  Tobruk falls on June 21 with a loss of 35,000 prisoners.  Rommel is promoted to Field Marshal and advances toward Alexandria, Cairo and the Suez canal with the British making a last stand at El Alamein.

Operation Venezia

July 1, 1942 (1st Battle of El Alamein)

         Rommel attacks the British line at El Alamein but the Brits hold.

September, 1942 (Battle of Alam Halfa)

         Rommel attempts to flank the British position but is halted by the Brits again under their new commander, Montgomery.

October 24, 1942 (Battle of El Alamein)

Battle of El Alamein

        Montgomery launches a major assault against the remnants of the Afrika Korps.  The Germans are pushed back for good.

November 8, 1942 (Torch Landings)

        American and British forces land in French North Africa and eventually help drive the Axis completely out of North Africa.  The last of the Axis surrender on May 13, 1943


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